The Douro Valley is worth visiting for its incredible landscapes, nature, wines, people, and history. The infrastructure in the Douro Valley is fast developing to bring you the best gastronomic restaurants, luxury stays, and atmospheric wine tastings.
A trip to the Douro Valley is an experience you will never forget. I keep coming here again and again to soak in the beauty, to stay in calm and quiet broken only by singing birds and to enjoy the hospitality of Portuguese people.
On an official note, the Alto Douro Region of the Douro Valley was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites for its landscapes and its wine production.
If you are interested in wine, a visit to the Douro Valley will be particularly inspiring.
The Douro Valley is the oldest demarcated and regulated wine-growing region with the largest diversity of grape varieties.
Besides world-famous port wine, many estates of the Douro Valley have been expanding their range to include quality dry table wines made under the rules of Douro DOC (denominação de origem controlada).
The poor schist soils and the hills protecting the valley from the influence of the Atlantic and the Meseta create warm and dry conditions ideal for winemaking.
Today, the Douro Valley wineries produce very impressive red and white dry wines. Many are incredibly good value.
Where to Go in the Douro Valley?
Alto (Upper) Douro
The most popular places in the Douro Valley are in Alto Douro between the towns of Peso da Regua (aka Regua) and Tua.
Historically the towns of Regua and Pinhao were the centers of port wine production and shipping. The two riverside towns are connected by rail and the most scenic national road N-222.
The landscapes are incredibly beautiful in this area of Douro Valley. In my opinion, the valley is particularly amazing between Pinhao and Covas do Douro.
Regua, Pinhao, Lamego, and Tabuaco are surrounded by wine estates.
My article on the Main Towns for Wine Tasting in the Douro Valley may be helpful in planning your Douro Valley wine tour.
Corga Baixo is an area to the west of Alto Douro, closer to the city Porto.
Resende is a town on the south bank of the River Douro known for the remnants of the prehistoric period, historic churches and the Cherry Festival held at the end of May.
Best things to do in the Douro Valley
Nature and landscapes
The beauty of the Douro Valley is a result of combined work of nature and man.
The narrow Douro river running between hills with thousands of man-made terraces create a unique landscape.
Terraces built following the shape of hills, make a futuristic ornaments. Vineyards grown at different altitudes and planted in different directions form colorful patches in the fall.
Explore the valley on boat, hike through it vineyard-covered slops, walk or drive to viewpoints.
The Casal de Loivos viewpoint is considered by BBC London as one of the most beautiful World landscapes.
Besides vineyards, which occupy only 20% of the lands, olive and almond trees are in abundance, as well as orange, apple, cherry and fig trees that grow here and there.
Douro Valley is a great place for watching stars reflecting in the calm Douro River. I highly recommend to stay overnight in a hotel with a river view.
Wine tasting in the Douro Valley
Wine tasting is one of the main reasons for visiting Douro Valley.
There are numerous hillside quintas (wine estates) welcoming visitors for tastings, guided tours, picnics and stays.
In my article How to Visit Douro Valley Wineries I provide tips on selecting the best Douro Valley quintas to visit.
Hiking is a great way to explore Douro Valley. Walk in the vineyards near Pinhao, or climb uphill to see the valley from several famous viewpoints.
Viewpoints near Pinhao:
Also, consider visiting Alvao National Park between Mondim de Basto and Vila Real with waterfalls, trails and places for river swimming. There are small villages of Lamas de Olo, Villa Marim, Ermelo and Barreiro inside the park that you can visit.
Some ideas of guided walking tours in the Douro Valley:
History and Architecture
Lamego is a city of Douro for architectural heritage. Lamego Castle, the Cathedral and the Sanctuary and the Stairway of Nossa Senhora dos Remedios are all worth visiting.
Casa de Mateus in the municipality of Vila Real is an example of Baroque architecture created by Nicolau Nasoni in the 18th-century. You can visit the manor house and see the rich collection, tour the gardens and even join a wine tasting, where both dry Douro Doc wines and port wines are served.
Casa de Mateus is open every day form 9:30 am to 5 pm and from 9 am on weekends. Tickets can be bought in advance through their website.
You can also visit Casa de Mateus on these tours:
In Tabuaco, the Romanesque parish church, chapels and the S. Pedro das Aguias hermitage are of particular interest.
Kayaking and Boat Tours
Jump on a Rabelo boat tour at the Pinhao docks Cais do Pinhão. The Rabelo boat takes you up the river to Tua for more amazing views of vine-covered hills and famous quintas.
Rabelo Boat 2-hour Guided Tour – this tour take you up to Tua
You can also rent a kayak in Pinhao and explore Douro river or its calmer tributary on your own.
Douro Valley Restaurants
Gastronomic restaurants are popping up in the Douro Valley.
Another gastronomic restaurant will be opened at Quinta do Bomfim in 2022.
I recommend to make reservations well in advance.
Picnics in the Douro Valley
Olive oil tasting in the Douro Valley
On my recent trip to the Douro Valley, I discovered an excellent place to taste local olive oil at an old mill of Casal de Loivos.
D’Origem has a small olive olive oil museum that shows the traditional way of making olive oil. You can also taste family wines – white, rose and red, honey and grape juice on a terrace with an incredible view. Owners Paul and Susana are very welcoming and friendly.
When to visit the Douro Valley?
The best time to visit the Douro Valley are April to June and September to November.
In the spring, the Douro Valley is green and warm.
July and August may be quite hot.
September is very interesting since it’s a harvest time in the Douro Valley. The vineyards are busy, you can see harvesting and grape stomping in the lagares.
The best fall colors will be displayed in October and early November which is my favourite time in the Douro Valley.
Winter months can be rainy and cold, however sunny and warm weather can also be expected.
How to visit the Douro Valley?
You can visit the Douro Valley by car, by train, by bus or with a wine tour.
A drive from Porto to Regua or Pinhão will take about 1.5 to 2 hours. There are tolls on A4/A24. If you drive the most scenic route N-222 from Regua to Pinhao be prepared for 95 hairpin bends and fantastic views.
The train is easy to take from the São Bento or Campanha train stations in Porto. The train takes under to 2 hours to Regua, and 2 hours 20 minutes to Pinhão.
See my article Douro Valley from Porto by Train and the video below.
Some companies offer boat tours up the Douro river.
Take one of the wine tours from Porto. Most tours offer to pick up from your accommodation in Porto.
From Lisbon, the Douro Valley can be reached by train via Porto, by direct bus to Regua, or by private transfer.